Downtime with the family is very important. Yes, we are in the midst of a pandemic but getting away together to relax, recover and reconnect is essential, especially for the kids who were stuck behind a screen for the last year. But how can we safely give the kids a good time on a budget? Well, when you have 4 children like me, an all-inclusive stay can be very expensive. So, opting for a villa with a pool/beach and a playground can be a great cost-effective alternative. This week I am therefore delighted to share some of the main lessons and takeaways from our recent all girls trip to St. Ann!
Opting for a villa can give you a longer stay for the budget you have so consider that option carefully. A 2-night stay at an all inclusive could probably pay for a 5-night stay at a villa which is very compelling, especially for the kids who just want to stay in the pool/beach all day! Of course, the main downside is having to preparing meals for the kids when you are also trying to have a break yourself. But that brings me to my next point – preplanning!
Thoroughly pre-planning your vacation is important when staying at a villa. Plan each meal and the ingredients required so that no one will starve, and you won’t feel like a maid! Of course, easy meals like burgers, hot dogs, cereal, ramen, icicles, yogurt or ice-cream are par for the course and are options kids can prepare for themselves (depending on their age). You can also plan a day when you will eat out together and another day for cooking a nutritious balanced meal.
Preplanning must also include a schedule of the places you will go and the costs. Although our villa had a beach and pool, we added other places to the vacay schedule including Puerto Seco Beach, Green Grotto Caves, Mainland China Restaurant & Ocho Rios Jerk Centre. I asked the girls which part of the week was their favourite. While they all admit that each venue had its own fun and charm, the caves were the most interesting! Imagine that! I guess it’s because they learnt that bat poop (which covered several sections of the caves) can be explosive! I am not joking. Big up to the tour guide and all the courteous friendly staff at Green Grotto! Of course, my bigger girls also really enjoyed the floating water park at Puerto Seco!
Finally, after the vacation with the kids, also plan a day or two for you as the parent/s to unwind without them. Yes, we love our kids dearly, but solitude and adult time are also important for your own rejuvenation.
How are you planning to spend the rest of August? Back to school (whatever that looks like) is around the corner, so please make the few remaining weeks count!
Shelly-Ann Harris is the Editorial Director of Family & Faith Magazine.
This week we continue our Happy Marriage Summer Series with beautiful couple, Sean and Ruth-Ann Taylor, who have been married for about 13 years. The couple have 4 children: Caleb age 11, Eden 9, Benjamin 8, and Israel 5. Sean is presently the Head of Digital Marketing at Barita Investments Ltd. and one of the Pastors at Grace Family Church. Ruth-Ann, who has homeschooled the kids up to this point, is in the midst of a transition where she will be working as a breastfeeding specialist helping new moms to successfully nurse their babies. The Taylors shared their marriage story with Editorial Director of Family and Faith Magazine, Shelly-Ann Harris.
Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?
Ruth-Ann: Sean and I dated from high school on and off and we were best friends. I personally knew because God whispered to me one day that he was the one. I then carried him to all the people who loved me and who I trusted, and we went to several different counselors together.
Sean: Ruthy was and still is my best friend. I would be sorry for any other woman that I would have married. They would be jealous of our closeness and I knew I would not want to lose our relationship. Simply put – she is a godly woman who I loved and wanted to marry.
Shelly-Ann: I had a chance to hear you introduce your husband who was the main speaker at Grace Family Church one Sunday. Your intro was sweet, vulnerable and honest – what’s the thing you value most about your husband Ruth-Ann? And Sean, what do you value about Ruth-Ann?
Ruth-Ann: I guess it would be how humble and teachable he is.
Sean: Ruthy daily shows us what it means to live sacrificially. She is who I call my “end-times woman” because there is nothing she puts her mind to that she isn’t able to do. She chooses every day to live a life of service to God and her family.
Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?
Ruth-Ann: Getting married so young meant there was lots we had to learn so I would say the hardest part of the learning was doing so while being very sick during pregnancy and raising several babies at once with adequate but not much money while still loving God, my husband and maintaining a church community.
Sean: They tell you to study hard, get good jobs and make enough money so you can start a family. We have chosen to walk a path that isn’t the norm. That has meant we have often been in a season of life that looks different from most people our age. That looked like choosing things like living in a one-bedroom apartment, with 3 children, while Ruthy stayed home during the formative years. Or deciding that we would move our family overseas while I studied to be a Pastor with our entire family not knowing exactly how we would do that financially. Such things add pressure to any marriage, but being willing to learn from others and being engaged in Christian community have been important means of God’s grace to keep us strong.
Shelly-Ann: Describe the role your faith plays in strengthening your marriage?
Sean & Ruth-Ann: Jesus is our everything. He is our rescuer, our sustainer and in Him we also have hope for his return. These truths shape our every interaction in marriage. We take the Bible very seriously and seek to live out the Gospel truths in our conversations. That in mind, we say sorry often. We are quick to revisit arguments until they are things we can laugh about together. We have had a single income family for years and have trusted God to provide because we wanted to prioritize certain things with our kids for years. Sean left his Job to pursue pastoral study because He felt God was leading in that way, which meant no salary for a family of 6; again a walk of faith. We have given ourselves in humility to the church and to believers there to speak into our marriage and we have welcomed it through the years as we have seen in scripture the importance of prioritizing such things.
Shelly-Ann: Has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage?
Sean & Ruth-Ann: Parenting has humbled us immensely and has definitely caused us to rely on Jesus more and more. It has caused us to see aspects of ourselves that has had us repenting on a regular basis. We have always seen our kids as the blessings that they are and the ways we have been able to grow in our character and our skill sets in raising them have been amazing. Godly counsel has really served us in these years of parenting, warning us to prioritize our marriage while we parent. So, we have sought to continue building our marriage. We have date nights weekly (in house or out of house) and that’s prioritized by us and respected by our children, church meetings and work schedules. We also try to get away often; at least once a year together. We try to prioritize growing in affection in the midst of the chaos so that we grow while they grow.
Shelly-Ann: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt about marriage and family over the years?
Sean & Ruth-Ann: Trust God and His Word and live according to the things His Word says. For example, “do not forsake the fellowship of believers” – we have not always felt like it; sometimes fights get in our way but we continue to prioritize what God’s Word says and it has served us tremendously.
“A soft answer turns away wrath” when applied is powerful and true.
“Love bears all things, hopes all things…” When applied God is at work. We depend on God being at work in us to live out these truths daily and in every moment.
We read marriage and parenting books yearly to help to revive our marriage and strengthen our parenting.
We are part of a local church and we have submitted to its leaders. This helps with accountability for both of us and our kids. Staying in community has definitely served us tremendously.
We did choose as a family to homeschool for the early years of our children’s lives and that has served our family tremendously. Both financially and also in being able to bring stability in the early years.
This week Shelly-Ann Harris connects with Michael and Lynier Watson for Family & Faith Magazine’s Happy Marriage Summer Series. Michael and Lynier have been married for 16 years and have 3 wonderful children: Michaela (14), Michael Jr. (11) and Matthew Mikhail (6). The two also own and operate ePOH Jamaica Limited, a growing company that provides IT services for small to medium businesses. Michael is also a singer and actor and Lynier is a teacher and actress. The creative lovebirds are also both Ministers of the Gospel.
Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?
Lynier: I had a crush on him from the first time I watched him playing basketball on the court of my alma mater, Edna Manley College (EMC). The Holy Spirit whispered to me at the time that he would be my husband. The only thing is that I wasn’t a mature enough believer at the time to know it was the Holy Spirit and thought it was in my head, especially since I was engaged somewhat to someone else at the time. We became friends and were just inseparable thereafter. I felt he was family and just couldn’t imagine not being with him.
Michael: While playing dominoes on the EMC Campus Dorms, one day I looked up and saw a gorgeous woman open her windows and fix her curtains, after which I saw her beautiful figure silhouetted behind the curtains as she fluffed her pillows and got ready for bed. I was so invigorated by the experience that I decided that I would sit in the same position every night to “play dominoes.” I was determined from that time that I had to do something to get this girl’s attention.
Shelly-Ann: Whenever you speak of Michael, you always have a sparkle and admiration. What do you value most about your husband? And Michael what do you value most about Lynier?
Lynier: It’s hard to give just one answer for this but at the top of the list would be his faithfulness and commitment to God and his family.
Michael: Lynier is like no one else that I know. She loves big and allows nothing to stop her from expressing that.
Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?
Michael & Lynier: We can’t identify one specific event that we could say was the greatest challenge we faced. We have faced many tough challenges including financial struggles, temptations of infidelity, struggles with in-laws – you name it we’ve tasted it. However, our greatest challenge comes not in the tough events because we often deal with those quite well. The toughest times in our marriage is when we turn our eyes on ourselves and look away from Christ and each other. Satan has a field day with our selfishness and floods our minds with thoughts that magnifies the simplest of things. We forget who we are and begin to accept all of satan’s lies about each other. “He doesnt love me, he only cares about himself so I have to take care of me,” is an example of these lies. These thoughts then influence both our behaviors and before you know it, we are constantly arguing.
We have identified that these thoughts are not our own. Whenever we refocus and set our thoughts on God’s word, He gently guides us back into truth. We still struggle from time to time especially when we are to minister. Satan comes at us with everything he has. Through discipleship with more mature believers and dedicating personal time with the Lord and in His Word, we are learning more and more how to defuse the flaming darts. As a result, arguments are way less and far between. We forgive each other for teaming up with the accuser of the brethren and we refocus on walking in the peace, love and joy that God has blessed us with.
Shelly-Ann: Turning to the children now, has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage? Describe how.
Michael & Lynier: Parenting is one of God’s greatest blessings to humanity. Whether you give birth to a child or not we strongly believe that every Christian couple should raise children. According to Malachi 3, it is one of God’s purposes for marriage. We find parenting to be God’s greatest gift to us. We recognize that everything God gives us is geared at building our character. Like gold, character is tested when it goes through fire. Parenting is a character builder. Sometimes it is overwhelmingly rough but at the end of the day it strengthens who we are. As our characters are built so is our marriage, so yes parenting has certainly strengthened our marriage.
One practical way that this happens is that we have to always keep in mind that we are a team. Every disagreement concerning the children must be discussed on the sidelines and not on the court. The kids must always realize that we are a team. If Daddy says no, then it’s no and if mommy says no its no. This gives the children stability and builds our relationship as a couple. It’s not always easy…especially when inside you strongly disagree. But with the help of the Holy Spirit it can be done and benefits the family greatly.
Shelly-Ann: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt about marriage and family over the years?
Lynier: God’s design and order for marriage is perfect. The world, our flesh and satan war against this. We are therefore in continuous warfare and can only win by learning and submitting to God’s way. Secondly, my spouse is not my enemy. We are on the same team. Keeping this at the forefront helps us to see situations from a clearer perspective. It helps us to identify the true enemy. Finally, we must choose to forgive immediately. Forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. No matter what is done we can choose to forgive. That frees the Holy Spirit to guide us through working through the challenge. When we choose to forgive immediately, the pain heals faster (though it still takes time), restoration comes and wisdom to not make the same mistakes is given.
Michael: That my primary relationships are God, my wife (the marriage union), my children, our extended family, church family, close friends, then everyone else. Missing this order can be detrimental to everything.
It’s Child Month and all of Jamaica’s children are still largely stuck at home. Well, that sucks, doesn’t it? As a mother of 4, I have firsthand information on how ‘boring’ home life can be for growing children who are used to frolicking in the outdoors, playing with the friends, going on field trips and spending Saturdays at the beach. But even with the restrictions and limitations, there are still quite a few activities that can keep boredom at bay and keep kids engaged.
I take my daughters on mommy dates – a one-on-one time for enjoying something they like doing. Typically, I would take my teenager to the movies but with the cinemas closed we recently decided to eat out at 100s on Hope Road. Of course, given the COVID protocols we dined on the Terrace and we were sufficiently distanced from others. It was a blast – the food was exceptional, we enjoyed a comforting view of the beautiful mountains and got a chance to talk ‘teenager stuff’ without her younger siblings. A pedicure is the next stop for daughter number 2 and that promises to be another great time for bonding.
In these times we understand that kids already spend all day on a device and many parents who work from home face the same scenario – but how about creating a period where no devices are allowed? This time can be used for reading actual physical books such as comics, novels, magazines and of course the Jamaica Observer etc. This could be called the ‘Paper Hour’ and could be paired with pizza or something nice to make it a ‘thing.’
Have dinner together. It is easy to sort of allow everybody to eat when they are ready especially with work sometimes encroaching in family time but eating together has several benefits. According to a recent article titled, The Benefits of Eating Together For Children and Families, by HealthLink BC “People of all ages eat better when they share a meal with others. They tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods.” The article goes on to point out that, “Eating together gives young children the chance to learn more words and how to communicate better. Other benefits for kids and teens include: healthier eating into adulthood; healthier body weight; lower risk of disordered eating; less use of cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol; fewer behaviour problems and decreased early sexual activity; better self-esteem and less depression; better grades and higher scores on achievement tests at school.”
With so many compelling reasons to eat together, how can we make it more enjoyable or interesting? You could consider having dinner outside together under the moonlight. Use a retractable table if available and spread home cooked or catered food buffet style. Or simply place a few stools or plastic chairs under a tree and enjoy whatever you have available for dinner together. Of course, you can also simply use the dining table and just be present in the moment – ask questions, listen and perhaps share a joke.
Cooking can also be a special time for bonding with children and can give them a sense of achievement. Schedule a day and time to teach them something. Also, listen to some of their own ideas – if instead of stew chicken they want to make quesadillas, oblige them. Get the ingredients and try it together!
Reinvest in a card pack and board games like chess, checkers, snake and ladder. Playing cards with the kids while sharing childhood stories can be a great way to spend the evening. You could also play a game of boy, girl, animal, place, TV show etc. – All you need is paper, a pencil and maybe a few treats for prizes.
You could also pull out those old photo albums and old phone photos and tell the stories behind the pictures. Let the kids tell their own stories too about the photos on their devices.
Finally, you can always take a drive out and take photos of places you miss. Share stories together of why you miss those places and in so doing create a time of bonding with your kids.
What else can we do to make life a little more interesting for our kids during these times? Send your ideas via email to email@example.com or comment below!
Shelly-Ann Harris is author of God’s Woman, President & Founder of Family and Faith Magazine and a media, communication, change management professional.
After enduring days of high fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing, loss of taste, loss of appetite and severe weakness, Bradley James was extremely tired, and incredibly, he had lost 20 pounds in less than 10 days. The 7-mile runner had tested positive for COVID-19 after working as a DJ for a party event for some church friends in Florida. He had worn his mask and tried to keep his distance from guests but sadly he left that mid-June gathering exposed to the virus.
His wife, Kiva remembers those early moments when they were wondering if he had gotten infected.
“One of the things he said when he returned home from that party is that he was annoyed that people were approaching him. He had a mask on but I don’t know if he was consistent with it when he was trying to talk and pull it down sometimes,” Kiva shared with Family and Faith Magazine.
“He was annoyed that quite a few people kept coming up to the DJ booth which was separated and distanced from everybody. But as they were drinking and becoming less inhibited they were being more bold and coming and requesting music, commenting and high fiving and he said he was reminding them to back away but I don’t think they were very cooperative because as I said they were less inhibited – that was on the 13th of June,” Kiva recounted.
Unusual Symptoms of COVID-19
Days later he was suffering from a backache which his family thought was as a result of falling during a soccer game with his kids or his medical history with kidney stones. But they were wrong. Instead, it was the beginning of a frightening fight with the COVID-19 virus.
“He continued to have the aching on Wednesday and then symptoms of vomiting started. He just had 1 or 2 episodes and 1 bout of diarrhea and I was like this is not as a result of your falling (in a soccer game),” reasoned the wife and the mother of their 2 boys, ages 12 and 8 years, and a girl, 10 years old.
On the Thursday he started having classic respiratory symptoms and a fever and that is when they decided to get tested. “We got the test that day and I remember that evening he got a couple calls from people who were attending that party saying that there were one or two people in attendance that ended up being positive between the time he started showing symptoms and got tested. So at this point we felt pretty confident that this is what we are dealing with while we are waiting on the results. So we contacted people we were personally in contact with between the 13th and the 18th and informed them,” the responsible wife revealed.
Bradley’s results came back 2 days later as positive. At this point his symptoms were progressing – the fever was spiking to around 102.5, he was more lethargic and started to lose his appetite. With her husband testing positive, Kiva moved quickly to look about the rest of the family.
“His test came back positive on the 20th. I went and scheduled a test and I was able to get in for the following day, Sunday for a test. At that point I had no symptoms at all. And then on Friday, my 12 year said he was tired and was going to take a nap. He laid down on the floor and took a nap. He never does that in the day. No fever no nothing. He napped for a couple hours and then he was fine. My 8 year old son said he was also feeling tired, I took his temperature and he had a very low grade temp of like 99.5 for about 24 hours and that was it, he was fine running, around, didn’t want to rest much and his fever was gone the next day. My 10 year old daughter had zero symptoms, no complaints, acting normal no fever, nothing,” Kiva remembers of her children’s brush with the virus.
The kids were therefore doing well and interestingly Kiva’s test results came back negative at first. Her second test however came back positive. Fortunately, she was largely asymptomatic but Bradley’s symptoms continued to worsen.
“His respiratory symptoms and lethargy and the weakness were progressing; the appetite was down. He was taking Tylenol when his fever was spiking and he had trouble resting and his back was hurting and I was checking his respiration,” Kiva, a veterinarian by profession explained. Both Kiva and Bradley were born and raised in Jamaica and received their Bachelor’s degree before relocating to the US. The two have been married for 14 years.
After Bradley’s symptoms continued to progress, Kiva, meticulous and forward thinking, started to take more action.
Useful tools and tips for fighting COVID-19
“At this point I had gotten a pulse oximeter – a finger held oximeter – which measures oxygenation. And that is a great tool because a lot of people won’t know when their oxygen levels are falling until it is way too low. Monitoring it early is a good idea and it was like US$20 or US$30 dollars for that so I had ordered it very early. I think I ordered it the Thursday and I think it came the Friday on the 19th . So I was checking it and checking all of ours and we were normally 98% but his was hovering around 96, 97 so he was a little lower than the rest of ours so I was using ours as a reference point. So he was maintaining that until early into the following week when his symptoms (the tiredness, the weakness, a little cough) were progressing and his breathing rate was increasing,” she continued.
The nights were particularly difficult and he had trouble sleeping. Moreover, his oxygen levels started deteriorating even further.
“I started checking his oxygen more often because it started hovering at 95, 96 so it was slowly dropping. We didn’t want to get below 94, 93 which is when I would get really concerned. We were told to practice some breathing exercises which we saw some YouTube videos about; just stretching to open up the lungs, putting our arms in the air and taking deep breaths,” Kiva shared with Family and Faith Magazine.
She added that, “one of the things we knew from the beginning is not spending a lot of time on your back. That seem to be the single most important thing which is kind of the opposite of what most people would want to do when they are feeling this way because they are tired, they are exhausted, and weak. So he did want to be on his back and laying in other positions kind of makes it a little harder to breath. So I had to insist that every few hours he is getting up (which became difficult because he was feeling weak and tired) moving around, so that you’re kind of getting your lungs moving and doing the breathing exercises. The nights were the most difficult. He would feel a little better in the morning but as the day progresses he would feel tired and it seemed like breathing was tiring so as the day progressed it required a little more effort to breath.”
In addition to medication and the oximeter, the Jamaican-born wife added potent herbal teas to her husband’s healing arsenal. “I was steeping ginger, garlic, onion, mint for flavour and mixing that with lemon and getting that at least 3 times a day which was the only thing he would consume plus lots of water,” Kiva revealed. “I said you have to stay hydrated, hydration is super important for the lungs. I also tried to give him broth and he would take a little bit of it,” she explained, noting that his sense of taste had diminished by then and his fever was spiking at nights.
Going to the Hospital or Staying Home
By around day 9 or 10, things had gone to a head. “I realize that at this point this is when people end up in the hospital and the reason is that your body can only fight an invader (virus) for so long. It requires a whole lot of energy, of resources – rest, nutrition – all these things for your body to put up an optimum fight. It can do that for a certain amount of time. After you do that your body is going down and the virus starts to win. At that point, we started getting really scared because we realized he was not beating this. It was weakening him,” Kiva recollected.
But the loving determined wife had prayer support and a plan. “Tons of prayer, everyone in Jamaica, here, because it got to the point where by now I had packed a bag for the emergency room. I talked to the children and I told them they may wake up and not see me or daddy so I would leave a note and we discussed that.” Of course in a situation like that it would be tricky to have someone come over to stay with the children when the family was battling COVID.
Thoughtful and diligent, Kiva continued to put things in place for any eventuality. She continued checking his blood pressure, his lungs, pulse oxygenation and recording them. But after around 10 days, the virus wasn’t only taking a physical toll but an emotional toll on Bradley as well. He was so drained he wanted Kiva to decide on if he should go to the ER.
“And I said we need to go. The bags are packed. But the look of defeat on his face – it was really hard. And I was like he can’t go into the hospital with this attitude and feeling like this,” the woman of faith insisted. Plus Kiva herself was tired and didn’t feel confident about going to a hospital.
“I wasn’t confident about what I was hearing about the hospitals and the stories about ventilators and how they do more damage to the lungs…It forces air into the lungs… in cases of pneumonia and COVID…you are going to cause damage even if not leading to the death, it is long term. But then you are in between a rock and hard place because if we don’t go he could decompensate quickly,” the medical practitioner reasoned. Plus she was no longer comfortable caring for him at home: “I had passed the point of feeling comfortable treating him at home and as much as we didn’t want to go to the hospital I didn’t think we had a choice.”
However the couple came up with a compromise. Kiva would keep monitoring Bradley closely and then they would do a telemedicine appointment the next day. If the doctor insisted that they go to the ER, then they would go.
Armed with days of meticulous records of Bradley’s heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure and breathing metrics, Kiva was able to provide the doctor with useful data. The doctor was essentially trusting Kiva’s ears and eyes in order to determine the way forward – hospital or home. Via telemedicine, the doctor prescribed a nebulizer and prednisone for Kiva to treat her husband and if that worked they wouldn’t need to go to the ER. Of course, with the support of her medical colleagues, Kiva had to figure out how to set up and use a nebulizer, which she did successfully.
Bradley Starts to Recover
After the first day of nebulizing, Bradley started to feel a little better. “By day 2 on the nebulizer he started playing cards with the kids. By day 3 he was looking better. Each day was appreciable improvement,” Kiva testified.
Of course in life threatening situations like these family and friends have an abundance of advice. One of them was to put an onion under Bradley’s shirt on his chest. Although not seeing the science behind it, Kiva acquiesced and placed an onion on his chest and elsewhere in the house, while administering the nebulizer and prednisone. And over time the father of her three children steadily improved.
“It took a while for his strength to come back. He was still very weak even though his respiratory symptoms were better and now (August) he is fully recovered. He hasn’t put on back the weight but that is intentional and his hair looks a little fuzzy which I think is long term impact but his lung capacity is back. He is back to running his 7 miles,” Kiva told Family and Faith Magazine.
The good book asks the question – a wife of noble character who can find? Another version asks it this way – an excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous, who is he who can find her? Well, Bradley found Kiva.
Life Lessons from COVID
With the ordeal behind them now, Kiva now reflects on the meaning of life with appreciation and new purpose. “During that time, of course it crossed my mind that I could lose my husband. This is real. And you start to think about all the things that are not important – if he gets through this then you’d be a better wife,” she committed.
“There are just so many things that don’t matter that we think are important that aren’t because at the end of the day all you want is that person to be there,” Kiva confessed, noting that all they now want to do is spend quality time together. Since the ordeal, Kiva has also had a spiritual awakening.
“I have gone on a journey – I am doing The Purpose Driven Life (book) now. I have gone on this journey of seeking my purpose because you realize that your time on this earth is temporary. And God has trusted things to us to take care of it. Nothing is ours. Not our life; not our possessions and they are all temporary. I am trying to redefine my life and purpose,” she declared.
Raising Strong Boys and Repairing Broken Men is the timely theme for the June | Father’s Day Edition of Family and Faith Magazine. Shorter than the previous documentary at 22 minutes, the June edition features impactful Christian men and their testimonies of faith, fatherhood and restoration. They include: Altano Morgan, manufacturer of ICAN; Robert Dixon, Principal of Operation Restoration Christian School and Dr. Wayne Henry, Economist and Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica. The documentary also connects with three promising young boys – Israel Redwood, Seth Ridgard and Luke Ridgard.
In keeping with the theme, the documentary, which is sponsored by the Jamaica Broilers Group, provides godly advice on raising strong boys.
Principal, Robert Dixon asserts that, “Children spell love – T-I-M-E. We have to spend time with our children. For both my son and the children at school I see my life as a foundation for these students.” The young principal advances that, “For my son, yes his foundation, his identity is linked to me to who I am and to who I am in Christ but for my students who have no other foundation who probably don’t know their father, can I be that foundation for them? Can I be so secure in myself that they can build their life on who I am and what I stand for?”
For his part, Dr. Wayne Henry points to three strategies for growing strong boys. First, he says it’s important “to be present, to be alongside, to be near.” Then, “There must be instruction and advice. Solomon, he said listen to my advice son, heed my warning and you will prosper.” His third nugget of wisdom is the need to show boys lessons and principles by example. “A lot of times we are too willing to say do as I say and not as I do and there is a key of leadership that we miss where Paul says follow me as I follow Christ .We don’t invite people to follow us ..part of leadership part of mentoring is that you have to be that example …the willingness to put on display even with your mistakes and your flaws that example,” the father of 3 insists.
Manufacturer and motivational speaker, Altano Morgan adds that the key to raising a strong boy is teaching him that there is a God, a Father who loves him despite the challenges he comes across in life. “There is a father there that will take care of him. There is a father there that wants the best for him. Even as an earthy father you are not going to be there every time to guide him and to teach him and all the different things but when you tell him about the Father up above who is looking down with his tender love, showing you, guiding you, directing you, that’s the fundamental foundation for me for raising a strong boy,” Morgan declares.
The uplifting documentary also looks at how to repair broken men, the most admired men in their lives and features what young boys love most about their dads.
President and Founder of Family and Faith Magazine, Shelly-Ann Harris feels turning the spotlight on boys and men is vital at this time. “The data is showing us that in many ways we are failing our boys and so we felt it was very important to focus on how to raise boys and restore broken men for our Father’s Day Edition, which balances our recent focus on women in the Easter Edition that was released a couple months ago,” Harris explains. “We remain thankful to our loyal sponsor, the Jamaica Broilers Group, who has supported us on this journey of sharing impactful testimonies of faith that can serve to strengthen family life,” she adds.
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When her teenage daughter became pregnant, what could have turned into a mother’s utter shame, guilt and disgrace turned into a story of Christ’s love, redemption and power through her church.
by Family and Faith Magazine writer, Ensebe Akunta
“I started to realize that I was looking for love in the wrong places and that the kind of love I really wanted was from my father,” Amanda* confessed. Her father had paid her scant regard throughout her life. He was not married to her mother and they did not relate well when she was growing up.
Amanda’s family circumstances are not unusual. In 2007, Jamaica had 35,344 live births out of wedlock, a little more than the capacity of Jamaica’s National Stadium. But things are changing for better because according to the January to September 2017 Provisional Birth Statistics from the Registrar General’s Department, this number was reduced to 20,238.
Under the law, Amanda is not yet a woman but is legally allowed to engage in sexual intercourse. At 16, she was taken out of a house by the police after she had changed out of her school uniform in a back alley and gone to visit her boyfriend. This 19-year-old man had completed school, had no job and lived on his own with financial support from his sister and his mother who lived abroad. The police took both Amanda and her boyfriend to the station and called the girl’s mother, Dawn*.
Dawn is a Christian who volunteers regularly at her church. Dawn said that Amanda had gotten baptized at 11-years-old and often served with her in the church. The single mother said that a few weeks after the police station incident, she bought a pregnancy test kit. Amanda’s results were positive.
“I went into mourning,” Dawn revealed as her face took on a more serious look. “I told Amanda, don’t ask me any questions or expect me to make any decisions about punishment or anything for three days. Because I had been reading and meditating on 1 Samuel 16 where God asked Samuel how long he would mourn for Saul. And God was teaching me that it’s okay and it’s healthy to mourn for a time. If you don’t allow yourself to do that you’ll mourn in an unhealthy way probably the rest of your life and don’t even recognize that anger and bitterness with people is just you mourning something that happened long ago,” Dawn reasoned.
She explained that she took that time to fully feel her anger, shame, disappointment, frustration, hurt and every other emotion that came with the news. After three days, she made up her mind to move forward and shared the news with her Pastor.
Of course, the issue of sexual immorality in the church had also been the focus of national attention during the same period of time, with social media confessions from known personalities and allegations and arrests of church leaders. Like the current slew of Hollywood sex scandals, it seemed to be something ‘everyone knows about but nobody talks about’. But the numbers are not silent and it appears that about half of the young people who attend Church have had sex.
The National Family Planning Board’s 2008 Reproductive Health Survey indicates that 46% of young women and 60% of young men aged 15-24 who have ever had sexual relations attend church at least once a week.
Dawn recounted that the Pastor and his leaders lamented the fall of their young congregant as if she was their own child. It is a small, close-knit church, led by a youthful pastor, who had not faced this situation before, she explained.
The Pastor said, “We prayed about how to respond and just followed the direction of the Lord”. They accepted the Lord’s challenge to face it in a God-honouring, Bible-believing way, so they met with Dawn and Amanda.
The Pastor and other church leaders determined that Dawn had tried her best but Amanda, knowing God’s standards, had made some bad decisions. Amanda, however, showed repentance about her sexual immorality in her speech and in her behavior. The Pastor declared “We believe that while the sex was a sin, the baby was not” in keeping with Psalm 127:3 – Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Additionally, at a regular meeting of the church membership, the leaders reiterated that sex outside of marriage at any age is a sin and unacceptable, but the resulting children are not. So, their decision was to love and support Amanda as she had recommitted to remaining a Christian and get help to make better decisions.
This gracious treatment of Amanda was peculiar because as the news soaked in, other church leaders and congregants would go to Dawn and share stories of being told to leave their church as youngsters because of teenage pregnancies.
“I heard stories of teenagers having abortion for fear of their deacon fathers finding out. Of little girls being sent away to country relatives. Of pastors’ sons denying that they are the father and just a whole heap of painful hiding and rejection” Dawn lamented.
Clearly, when Dawn chose to tell her Pastor and Amanda agreed to meet with them, the church could freely apply 1 John 1:9 (KJV) – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Beyond Amanda’s confession and repentance her reform included attending professional counseling to speak about the issues that influenced her to sin in the first place; continuing regular attendance at church and starting mentoring relationship with a mature Christian.
Existing sex education programmes in Jamaica focus on teaching children how to engage in sexual intercourse that does not result in disease or procreation. But they do not teach how to build stable life partnerships through healthy friendships then marriages before committing to sexual intercourse.
Both hospital and police staff encouraged Amanda to sign up with the Women’s Centre Foundation to continue her education. But it was her mother who told her that while continuing her education was important, she also needed to learn how to have healthy Godly relationships with men.
Dawn reasoned that, “This would give Amanda hope for sex in the right context of marriage in the future. Because after baby born, the ‘feelings’ don’t go away! Who tells pregnant teenage girls that they can still look to get married some day? And how do they go about achieving that? It’s still on their minds, but who’s talking about it? And how do they raise their children well? I’d love to see Women’s Centre or the Church or somebody teach them about that! Because as single parents we don’t always know how to”.
Throughout her pregnancy, Amanda had continued to regularly attend her church where she received encouragement and practical advice about motherhood.
Today the baby is born and bringing both joy and sleepless nights. Amanda says that her church’s love has been overwhelming as members donated cash gifts, baby clothes, furniture, diapers, motherly advice, rides to the clinic and much prayers. The baby’s father visits occasionally.
There are no guarantees that as Christians we won’t sin, make bad decisions or mistakes. But in Romans 8:35 – 39, God has says that nothing can separate us from His love. He is not letting go. Why should we?
*Names and places have been changed to protect the identity of the family involved.
In these modern times, parents face unique challenges in effectively raising their children and oftentimes age-old practices are seen as ineffective, irrelevant and in some instances abusive. Corporal punishment, more commonly known as ‘spanking,’ is one of those parenting tools that is now in question and stirs significant debate.
Moreover, recent video recordings showing parents violently assaulting their children have further cracked the whip on the efficacy and humaneness of spanking. Family and Faith Magazine therefore sought answers from respected family counselor and CEO of Family Life Ministries, Dr. Barry Davidson.
Dr. Davidson first categorically explained that much of what has been seen from the viral videos are abusive behavior, where the parent seems to be venting destructive anger on a child.
Still, he was keen to point out that “there is a place for spanking.” He said: “I know it is not the politically correct thing for me to say but I say it because that is what I believe.” Dr. Davidson explained that “spanking is punishment and is not something that you do very often, it is something that you rarely do, but there is room for it. There is room for it when you really want to let the child know that this (negative behavior) is not something that you are going to tolerate.”
The family counselor was however adamant that parents “need to know when to spank, you need to know when not to spank and you need to also know how to spank.”
When not to spank
“I don’t believe you should spank for childish or immature behaviour which is consistent with a child’s age,” Dr. Davidson asserted.
He also warned against spanking when a child becomes restless as a result of sitting too long at an event or function. “A child who is in church and the service is going on too long (and the attention span for a child is much shorter than for an adult) and because the child is disturbing you; because the child is restless, you take the child outside and you spank the child – you don’t spank for that because the child is being him or herself,” the counselor explained.
Continuing he said: “you don’t spank for lack of ability – you may have one child that is very good at Math and the other is not. Don’t compare children and because one isn’t doing well you spank. You don’t spank for lack of ability.”
“You don’t spank for accidents – a child is playing cricket and the ball accidentally breaks a window you don’t spank for that however if you say to the child, don’t play cricket here anymore and the child continues, that is a different situation. That is now disobedience,” he explained.
“Never spank out of anger. Never spank when you are irritated, when you feel depressed or when you are tired because that’s when you lose control, that is when you become very very abusive,” he cautioned.
When to spank
Having shared when not to spank, Dr. Davidson also offered circumstances in which spanking may be warranted and helpful. He explained that spanking as a form of punishment can be done when there is disobedience. “Because when a child is deliberately disobedient – when a parent says over and over don’t do this and the child continues, what that child is doing is challenging the parental authority and so what the parent has to do is let the child know that this will not be tolerated, and the child must know why he or she is being spanked and the parent should be very calm and very careful,” he explained.
“I think also that children can be spanked for uncooperative attitudes – they are not willing to cooperate and again you have spoken to them, you have tried to help them to understand the importance of cooperating with the family – you might have to make a point. Because spanking is really punishment and punishment is making a point. It is letting a child know that hey, this is not going to be tolerated.”
Dr. Davidson added that parents could spank for lying, stealing, cheating – character faults. “These are things that should never be tolerated or encouraged. These are things that can end up in a worst situation than spanking, they could be embarrassed one day, in prison one day and so we need to understand that what we are doing with children is preparing them, helping them to live in a real world and that real world has consequences for actions that right now we are helping them to change,” he explained.
A father himself, Dr Davidson told Family and Faith Magazine that: “I have 3 children and 1 of my children never ever got spanking, the other probably got 2 in their entire life and the other probably got 5 or 6 and yet still I was a believer in spanking. But I knew when to spank, when not to spank and knew spanking was not an act of discipline but punishment,” he admonished.
The family counselor also reiterated that “When I am talking about punishment I am not talking about abuse because I am very anti-abuse. I think abuse is what creates serious problems with people becoming very violent.” He however emphasized that “if you fail to punish a child, society is going to do it for you one day. A lot of children that we see becoming reckless and ruthless, they really never got the training and the discipline and when necessary the punishment when they were young.”
“It is my conviction that most youngsters even those who are rebellious against adults’ authority are actually seeking a strong hand of guidance and spanking therefore should be where you are setting definite boundaries of right and wrong for a child,” Dr. Davidson explained. Essentially, he says with spanking you are demanding obedience because disobedience can get you in trouble.
Asked what age spanking would be appropriate for children, Dr. Davidson said, “spanking should take place between ages 4 and 10. By the time you get to 10 or even 9 there is no need for spanking after that,” he said.
Where to spank
In terms of where to spank, the father of three prescribed that “the padded area that we sit on is the best place to provide the ‘rod of correction’. Certainly, it is not going to be the hands and face and the back – that to me is abuse,” he insisted.
In the end, Dr. Davidson urges parents to cultivate a balanced wholesome relationship with their children. He noted that firmness (discipline) without relationship can lead to rebellion and conversely, relationship without firmness can lead to spoiling. Instead he asserts that relationship plus firmness are what will result in helping parents to raise responsible human beings.
Do you believe there is a place for spanking? Why or why not?
Mother of 5 and co-pastor at Family Word and Worship Church, Trudy Tucker is advocating that talking with your children, being vulnerable and practising consistent prayer are powerful tools in parenting teenage kids. In an interview with Family and Faith Magazine, the passionate pastor shared practical, sound examples of effective parenting at work.
“Once the kids grow up, one thing we have to do is talk. I try and talk to my teenager and teach her the Word,” she admonished, noting that “A big thing for teenagers is the whole idea of sex. The hormones are going, there is attraction and I have to give her the Word and I have to say this is why the Word of God says to wait.”
Laying down God’s rules is not the only thing Pastor Trudy does. She also emphasizes God’s heart and mind towards His children. “He doesn’t want you to wait because he doesn’t want you to have fun. He wants you to wait because he is protecting, because you are valuable, you are important, God has a call upon your life, you have a purpose,” she explained.
And what if those teens still disobey? The Family Word and Worship Pastor recommends prayer!
“I think we underestimate the value of prayer. We have to pray for our children and we have to cover them. We think sometimes that prayer is not enough and we have to take this into our own hands, no God is able. The Holy Spirit is powerful enough to reach them right where they are. We underestimate the power of God – we think to pray is just a little thing but we must really value prayer and you will see prayer work in your life. It can change things. It can change the circumstances and it can change people,” pastor Trudy testified.
The down-to-earth pastor also highlighted the importance of being vulnerable with teenagers. “I have to be vulnerable with my girls to say listen, this is what I went through and this is why I don’t want you to walk the same road I did. We have to be real with them. The time has changed. They are exposed to so much more than I was at their age so I have to be willing to step out there and be real to let them know this is the road I went down, you don’t have to go down that road,” she reasoned.
With children ranging from 21 to 6 years, Pastor Trudy counsels that disciplining each child may require a different approach and that it is very important to instill values and correction from children are very young.
“With one of my children I would just have to look at her, and that was enough for her to get her straight, with another one I would say that I am very disappointed and I know my little boy is like that, if I tell him that I am disappointed he is heartbroken but you have to start very early and in that way when they get older now they will listen so you don’t have to get to the point where you are now beating and spanking them because you have instilled the values very early on,” she counseled.
However, what if you didn’t cultivate that relationship from the beginning? Pastor Trudy says it’s never too late. “A scripture that I love is that love covers a multitude of sins. It is never too late to start building that relationship and what it takes is a lot of love. Meaning you have to start putting in the time. It is unfortunate you don’t get it back. When they are older the time for the spanking, to me, has passed. Now you are going to have to reason. We are going to have to talk about it,” she insisted.
With 36 years of marriage, 10 children and 6 grandchildren in their quiver, Major Neil and Janice Lewis share their faith-imbued parenting and family management strategies and outcomes with Family and Faith Magazine. The Lewis family has 4 boys and 6 girls ranging from age 34 to 14 years of age. They are: Noel 34 yrs, Priscilla 32 yrs, Kathryn 31 yrs, Christina 29 yrs, Gabrielle 27 yrs, Raphael 24 yrs, Michaela 23 yrs, Elizabeth 19 yrs, Joel 17 yrs, Emmanuel 14 yrs. Family and Faith Magazine couldn’t be more pleased to share their testimony of faith in parenting, marriage and family life at a time when Jamaica and the world urgently need strong positive examples of success on the home front.
Child Birthing Decisions
FFM: Did you make a decision to have so many children?
Major Neil and Jan: We decided that we would live by faith in Jesus, and made a decision to NOT ARTIFICIALLY RESTRICT the number of children we had but allow the Lord to decide how many children we would have.
FFM: Explain how your faith impacted your decisions about having children.
Major Neil and Jan: The song ” Living by Faith in Jesus….” became our operating principle. Initially Jan wanted 3 children because her mother had 3 children; I had wanted 12 children because my father had wanted 12. Although we had 10 children, Jan had 2 miscarriages. Because she hemorrhaged with No. 9 we decided to have any further children by caesarean section, hence No. 10 was a caesar. However, a failure of faith at this time caused us to make a decision to tie off Jan’s tubes. We were later convinced that this was a wrong decision and constituted a breach of our faith in Christ.
FFM: How are your children schooled?
Major Neil and Jan: The first 5 children were schooled at a Christian Preparatory School, with Numbers 6 & 7 attending prep school up to grade 2. Thereafter these and subsequent ones were home-schooled.
FFM: What factors influenced your decision to school your children in that way?
Major Neil and Jan Lewis: Jan was very involved with our children’s education even to the point of jointly with 2 other persons acting as headmistress of the School while the Principal was on a six-month Sabbatical. She participated in bringing the Abeka home-school curriculum to the school. She also acted as Principal of a Prep school sponsored by our Church and our children attended that school during that period
So, all in all the last 5 children were home-schooled. This school developed into Redeemed Preparatory and Reading Centre operating out of our home.
We made conscious decisions to home-school the children up to grade 6 and send them to traditional High Schools for secondary education. These were Ardenne High and St Andrew high School for Girls, Jan’s Alma Mater. No. 10 attends Wolmer’s Boys, my Alma Mater.
FFM: Some of your children are now grown up, how do you now feel about your choices for them? Did it pay off? Are they becoming the people you have trained them to be?
Major Neil and Jan: Excellent without exception for the girls and the older group of 5. Less so for the boys who had difficulty with socialisation and adjusting out of the home-school environment into the public-school environment.
The first 4 earned full scholarships to the US Military Academies (3 Navy and 1 Air Force)
The fifth, a girl, is paying her own way through University
The sixth, a boy, is working to pay his way through Edna Manley School of the performing Arts in pursuit of a degree in piano.
The seventh, a girl, is on a scholarship from the Government of Brazil, studying Medicine.
The eighth, a girl, is on a scholarship at Venlo University in the Netherlands studying Microbiology and Statistical research
The ninth, a boy, is currently applying for suitable scholarships preparing for University, and
The tenth is in his fourth form year at Wolmer’s Boys School.
FFM: Share 2 effective ways in which you motivate your children.
Major Neil and Jan: We eventually, as we discovered the principle, divided the children’s’ lives into 7-year blocks as follows:
First 7 yrs motor skills and communication/language skills development ensuring they learned to read very early and were encouraged to maintain a high academic average of 95% in preparatory school
Second 7 yrs formation/development of supervisory and home management skills; i.e. cooking, cleaning and sibling leadership/discipline. Each one had responsibility for a younger one especially while the family is travelling; or supervising all younger siblings if the parents are out for hours, such as date night.
WE BRING THEM INTO ADULTHOOD AT THE AGE OF THIRTEEN; First they take a coming of age hike to Blue Mountain Peak (as part of a group), on return from which their status in the family changes as follows;
Corporal punishment ceases as a disciplinary method
They can take part in major family decisions and are privy to confidential family issues and discussions.
They must be prepared to supervise and manage the entire household in the event of absence of the parents over days rather than hours:
Primarily through the Prep and early High School years, we encouraged them to try different sports and skills such as competence in music,
Additionally, we told them we would ensure that they got a 1st class Secondary Education but that they had to earn Scholarships for their tertiary education which we regarded as compulsory or they must pay for it themselves.
FFM: Share 2 effective ways in which you discipline your children.
Major Neil and Jan: Up to coming into adulthood corporal punishment is applied according to age; “Spare the Rod, Spoil the child.”
Mother; one slap at age 1, 2 slaps at age 2 to 3 slaps at age 3
For severe offences requiring referral to father then this punishment is doubled
The end result is that especially for the girls, corporal punishment was no longer necessary by age 9.
Post thirteen years, withdrawal of privileges became the method of choice for disciplining.
FFM: Do you practice different parenting approaches when disciplining and motivating your girls versus your boys?
Major Neil and Jan: We encourage all the children to confide in us as parents even their most intimate secrets, primarily through family prayers and a once monthly Family all night Prayer Meeting, where each person is free to criticise/rebuke anyone else even us as parents with no fear of a negative response. The girls have an easier time doing this. We were deliberate in engendering a spirit of seeking and granting FORGIVENESS between them. The result is that there is no lingering strife and rivalry and they remain loving.
FFM: In general, what are your top 3 lessons you have learned about parenting over the years?
Major Neil and Jan: PRAYING FOR THEM INDIVIDUALLY DAILY.
This is a responsibility largely fulfilled throughout their early lives by their mother. This made them malleable in our PARENTING hands and enabled the Holy Spirit to reveal when things are going wrong.
Later we also implemented a Prayer Project System where we prayed and reported progress on an ongoing basis for every prayer need until the answer is granted.
Now that they are all adults, resident in many different time zones our family Whatsapp group is very helpful as a tool of encouragement, responsive (24 hr.) prayer and counsel for our daily lives.
The larger the number of children the easier the parenting responsibility socially AND educationally AND financially became; the older siblings help raise/teach/pay for the younger ones etc. Having this large number of CHILDREN OURSELVES prepared our household to always include at least one foster child who benefitted from our parenting and family bonding. We found that consequently there is always a reserve of persons on whom to call in times of need.
“Train up a child in the way he should go AND in the END, he will not depart from it” – we encourage them to give their hearts to the Lord Jesus from an early age. The Family Altar is the most critical component in the child-rearing challenge.
FFM: What impact did having many children have on your marriage?
Major Neil and Jan: Up to the fifth child, it was an exciting learning process because each child was so different; At no. 5 the Lord did a paradigm shift which enabled Janice to freely move forward for the next 5 of our children. The large number of children was therefore never a burden or drag on our individual lives or personal ambitions. The Lord had given us a revelation early in our marriage that children must never get in the way of ministry but equally that ministry must never get in the way of family, so wherever family was ministry must be and wherever ministry was family must be, therefore we practised taking them wherever we went. They were always polite and well behaved, this was a skill honed in the discipline of family prayers. They have been a major bonding agent and have never been a burden!! We came into a revelation of the dynastic characteristic and the demographically essential nature of HAVING A QUIVER FULL OF CHILDREN thus fulfilling the Biblical requirement of multiplying and filling the earth.
FFM: Who comes first in your relationship, spouse or children? Why?
Major Neil and Jan: We have always regarded our child-rearing as a fully joint responsibility and have tried to avoid any preferential behaviour however I have found that;
For Janice her nurturing, mothering heart appeared to me to give the children priority; Jan prefers to say; that for her Jesus is first, followed by her spouse then our children
For me my Spouse was definitely first and it was difficult adjusting to put Jesus first before her and I believe this was responsible for the failure of faith I mentioned earlier on the birth of our tenth child.
FFM: What advice can you offer to parents struggling to raise respectful, responsible and loving children?
Major Neil and Jan Lewis: ESTABLISH A DISCIPLINED DAILY FAMILY ALTAR through which you train them to behave in church from they are infants.
We have used the ONE YEAR BIBLE and read through The Bible every year as a family since the birth of our fourth child.
LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, and VALUE THEM as A REWARD from the Lord as the Word of God insists.
Discipline them do not abuse them.
PRAY, PRAY, PRAY WITHOUT CEASING FOR THEM! God has the Blue-print for EACH CHILD, they are after all His children first!
Responses to questions were graciously provided in writing by Major Neil and Janice Lewis to Family and Faith Magazine. Comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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